I have a family member that I love to debate with. Whenever I visit him, politics come up — and normally this is where everyone’s heart skips a beat and the eggshells come out. Not for me! I love the opportunity to voice my view and listen to his. He and I know we’ll "agree to disagree,” but on a deeper level, both of us enjoy the chance to share viewpoints and be heard.
To me, those conversations with family (where I know my viewpoint won’t change anyone’s mind) are practice... practice for when I really need the words to make an impact elsewhere. As a yoga teacher and a writer, I know I need to practice getting my words out whenever I have the chance. The more often I try them out, the more likely they are to carry conviction when they matter most.
In those conversations, I’m detached from the idea of converting anyone, so I’m generously listening. Rather than mentally formulating my next point while he's talking, I’m hearing his view. When I speak, I try to speak to him (based on what he said), rather than AT him... I modify what I say so that he might be able to hear me. And regardless of the outcome, I chalk the whole experience up as a chance to brush up on my listening skills, practice tailoring my words, and ultimately learning how to love my family members for who they are with whatever beliefs they have in that moment.
I know that if my feathers get ruffled, that's on me. That's my attachment to a certain expectation I have for how I think he should act. Of course I could choose to not engage all together... but deep down, I enjoy the challenge of learning how to speak directly to someone, not at them.
It's exactly the process each of our yoga teacher trainees goes through at Yoga Hive. They practice their first custom-sequenced class until it's "just right" for their final test-out. Then when they teach that first class, it’s the most amazing thing to witness! We give love, feedback, and they acknowledge what they’d do differently next time. If they decide to teach post-training (some don’t—it’s not a requirement) they refine, teach, and refine again. It's a lifelong journey, and lifelong learning. As Yoga Hive teachers, when we stop learning, we stop teaching.
So this idea of "marinating" on how we feel and practicing our words applies to all aspects of life.
My teacher, Anand, always says: "If you can't explain something simply, then you don't truly understand it."
If we are having debates with the goal of studying ourselves, practicing our conviction, and coupling that with truly listening to our world (as opposed to a goal of preaching, converting, or forcing an opinion)... that's yoga. Whether you're on a yoga mat, or discussing politics on a couch with your impassioned relative... doesn't matter. It's all yoga — the art of hearing both sides. Being a generous listener. Sitting with the information. Pausing in stillness. Speaking from the heart.
Or when in doubt, just stop talking and get your butt to a yoga class :-)
PS — Come stand in solidarity with Yoga Hive, Love Yoga, and Shanti this Saturday in Depot Park. We're coming together to do 108 Sun Salutations in honor of the Summer Solstice in solidarity with Black and Indigenous People of Color. All registration funds from class (pay what you can!) will be donated to the Montana Racial Equity Project. Scroll for details and a link to sign up.
PPS — We're promoting a Virtual Workshop, also for the summer solstice, from one of our lovely Yoga Hive Wisconsin teachers, Danita. It's in the afternoon this Saturday! Scroll below for details.
How do we know what to do?
It’s hard to know where to begin.
Things are hard and messy these days — there’s no debate on that. The current wave of urgency to act NOW is a familiar feeling for me. After I met Sean, I started my journey as an advocate for people with type 1 diabetes. (I am not comparing chronic disease to civil rights, nor am I implying this makes me some “authority” in today’s world… this is just how my story begins).
Nine years ago this month, Sean and I were on our first trip to Whitefish, Montana. I remember telling friends and family that nothing could stop us from moving there as soon as possible.
The only thing holding us back? We had to figure out health insurance.
Since I’ve known him, Sean has lived with type 1 diabetes — an autoimmune disease with no cure where your body doesn’t produce insulin, the hormone needed for survival and to take in nutrients from food. His pancreas is broken. He didn’t cause this for himself. It just… happens.
In other words: He has a preexisting condition.
I — not knowing anything about life with chronic disease — naively thought I could call up a heath insurance provider and sweet talk my way into getting us a family policy. Then magically, Sean would quit his job as the director of competitive snow sports, and we would move to Whitefish and have health insurance, and the world would be good!
I’ll never forget that phone call. I explained to the gentleman at Select Health that I needed a family policy because we would be leaving our jobs with health insurance to move out of Utah.
At first, he was like, “No problem Ms. Busby! I can help you with that!” He proceeded to take all my information down, asking questions, creating our profile (and I’m thinking, see? Told you so!) … until he asked, “Do either you or your husband have any pre-existing health conditions?”
“Yes. Sean has type 1 diabetes.”
“Oh, I’m sorry Ms. Busby but I can’t offer your family a policy at this time.”
I feigned shock, even though deep down I knew this was coming. I needed to hear him say it. I asked, “You mean to tell me just because my husband was born with a disease with no cure that he isn’t eligible for a policy with you? What do you expect us to do?” (As if this man would have my answer.)
“Correct ma’am. Your husband should not quit his job.”
“But we’re moving.”
“Then you shouldn’t move until you or he has a job that provides health insurance.”
The way I heard his advice? Stay put. Sit down. Be complacent. I was stunned. It moved me. I knew from that moment forward I was committed to doing everything I could to support the type 1 diabetes community, in Sean’s honor. I knew it deep in my bones. Kids with this disease should know they can accomplish their wildest dreams, despite being denied access to basic things like affordable health insurance. I’ve been around the world hosting camps for the non profit Riding On Insulin, and have spent time speaking to members of congress alongside Sean on Capitol Hill about the importance of research for type 1 and access to life saving medical supplies for seniors.
Since that fateful year, advocacy has paved the way for legislation prohibiting insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions and providing access to life saving technologies for some of our at risk populations. Taking a stand is incredibly important, and change is possible when we’re passionate for the long haul. This takes love in our hearts for the cause. Not fear of inaction. Guilt for past wrongs. Or shame for “who we are.” True change comes when we dig deep and see that love is universal. Love is human nature.
But how do we know the right action to take when injustice is fresh in our minds and time is of the essence?
In the yogic teachings, we learn about dharma—your own unique path. Not a career, necessarily. Not “your purpose”. But the path you uniquely walk. Yoga teaches us that it’s better to strive on our own path, rather than to succeed in the path of another. Nothing is ever lost in following our own path. But when we engage in competition with someone else’s path, that action breeds fear and insecurity.
So, we must ask ourselves: Are we living our own path — from love, from that feeling deep down in our bones — or following someone else’s path, out of our own fear/guilt/shame? As we all struggle to determine the right thing to do at this time, instead of looking OUT to what everyone else is doing, look IN.
Yes, read books, get educated, take courses, talk to people, share your feelings, get advice, stand up for what you believe in. Do all those things. But when it comes to your personal right action, look inside. You will know what to do and it will be authentic and correct. When we do what others are doing (be it inaction or action) without examining our own role in the situation, we don’t feel fulfilled. We experience disconnect because our actions aren’t in alignment with our own deep knowing. Ultimately, we end up feeling even more separate than before we took action because we’ve behaved in a way that's separate from ourselves.
This is some deep work! So my recommendation? Do the work, look inside, trust yourself and LOVE, LOVE, LOVE! (And if you need yoga and meditation in your life to sort that out, you know where to find us!)
Here are Yoga Hive, we have a stance and some action items:
In light with love,
Originally hailing from Wisconsin, Mollie is a cheesehead transplant to Northwest Montana, with degrees in Retail and Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Today, she lives off the grid, half the year in a Tiny House & half the year in a yurt — both of which she and her husband, Sean, built by hand. Nonprofit Executive Director by day, Mollie also owns and teaches at Yoga Hive — a chain of community yoga studios in the valley.